04/05/2008 11:00PM

Eight Belles headed to Oaks on four-race streak


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Eight Belles will head to the Kentucky Oaks riding a four-race win streak and as the early favorite for the race after she dug in for a three-quarter-length victory over Alina in the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park on Sunday. It was another half-length back in third to Pure Clan.

The Fantasy continued the 35th annual Racing Festival of the South, when at least one stakes a day is being run over the final six dates of the Oaklawn meet. The season closes Saturday with the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

Eight Belles ($3), who had won two stakes leading up to the Fantasy, hopped out at the start of the mile and a sixteenth race and settled about four lengths behind Alina, who led the field through an opening quarter in 24.36 seconds as Pure Clan stalked in second. Eight Belles continued to race in third through a half-mile in 48.12 seconds.

Eight Belles picked up steam into the final turn, and advanced three wide into the stretch outside of Alina, who had led through six furlongs in 1:12.46, and Pure Clan. In the drive, Eight Belles dug in to get past Alina, came in slightly nearing the wire, and completed the distance on a track rated fast in 1:43.06.

"She had her head up when the gate opened, so it wasn’t the best of starts," said Ramon Dominguez, who rode Eight Belles.

"Through the stretch, she just kept driving."

Larry Jones, who trains Eight Belles for Fox Hill Farms, said the plan is for the filly to start next in the Kentucky Oaks. She began her win streak in January with a 15-length victory in a first-level allowance at Fair Grounds, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 100. Eight Belles proceeded to win the $50,000 Martha Washington by 13 1/2 lengths in her stakes debut Feb. 17, then one race later took the Grade 3, $100,000 Honeybee over the previously unbeaten Pure Clan.

Eight Belles earned $150,000 in the Fantasy, her fifth victory from nine career starts. She has now earned $308,650. Eight Belles is a daughter of Unbridled’s Song.

Lantana Mob wins comeback

On the Fantasy undercard, Lantana Mob ($5) was a winner in his first start of the year when he overtook pacesetter Force Freeze for a one-length victory in the $50,000 Bachelor. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Maya’s Storm in third.

Lantana Mob raced about four lengths off of favored Force Freeze, who easily moved to the lead at the start and set fractions of 21.90 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.77 for a half-mile. Lantana Mob overtook Force Freeze late to cover the six furlongs for 3-year-olds in 1:09.42.

Luis Quinonez rode Lantana Mob for Vinery Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen. The Bachelor was the third career stakes win for Lantana Mob, following the Grade 3 Sapling and the $60,000 Tyro, both last year at Monmouth Park.